Legend has it the old King of Johor traveled to Italy and fell in love with spaghetti. He brought it back to Malaysia and had his royal chefs create a sort of gravy to accompany it, creating laksa Johor.
- 1 litre fish stock
- 800 g skinless Spanish mackerel or bonito, cut into large pieces
- 150 g green prawns, peeled, cleaned and coarsely chopped
- 50 g dried shrimp (hibi)
- 6-7 slices dried assam
- 50-100 g Malaysian fish curry powder
- 100 g kerisik (roasted coconut paste)
- 500 ml (2 cups) coconut milk
- 500 g spaghetti
- 10 g belachan (shrimp paste)
- 5 red chillies (Serrano or Jalapeño), stems removed, chopped
- 3 bird's eye chillies, stems removed, chopped
- 30 g red Asian shallots
- 1 lime, juiced
- salt, to taste
- 15-30 g dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, drained
- 350 g red onion, chopped
- 60 g ginger, peeled and chopped
- 60 g garlic, peeled
- 60 g galangal, peeled and chopped
- 70-80 g lemongrass stalks, white part only, chopped, green tops reserved
- 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
- 500 g bean shoots
- 300 g preserved turnip (chaipo), thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. For the sambal belachan, place the belachan in a dry frying pan or an open flame over medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a food processor, add the chillies and shallots and blitz until finely chopped. Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. For the laksa paste, place the chillies, onion, ginger, garlic, galangal and lemongrass stalks in a food processor and blitz until a smooth paste forms.
3. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the paste and cook, stirring regularly for 10-15 minutes or until the paste has darkened in colour and the oil has started to separate from the solids.
4. Meanwhile, place the stock in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Add the mackerel, prawns, dried shrimp, reserved lemongrass tops and 1 piece of assam and simmer gently for 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Remove the fish, prawns and shrimp with a slotted spoon, then remove and discard the lemongrass from the stock.
5. Place the fish and prawns in a food processor with a little hot stock and blitz into a smooth paste.
6. Place the curry powder in a bowl, add enough of the reserved stock to make a paste, then add to the pan with the laksa paste. Cook, stirring regularly over low heat for 5-10 minutes or until darkened. Add the remaining stock and the fish mixture and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the coconut milk, kerisik and the remaining assam slices and simmer, stirring regularly for another 15-20 minutes, adding a little water to loosen if necessary. Season to taste and adjust according to your preference.
7. Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold running water, then drizzle with a little oil to prevent it sticking.
8. To serve, divide the spaghetti between bowls, shaping into mounds. Ladle over the hot laksa, then add the toppings and serve with the sambal on the side.
Diana Chan is exploring the many dishes of Asia within Australia in the brand-new series, Asia Unplated with Diana Chan.